Continental Consultation on Drug Demand Reduction opens in Cape Town
The focus of the consultation is to review where we are at with improving access to comprehensive, evidence-informed, ethical and human rights based drug use prevention, dependence, treatment and aftercare services
Member States recommit to scaling up advocacy for balanced and integrated responses towards drug control
The Director of Social Affairs of the African Union Commission (AUC), Amb. Olawale Maiyegun, presided over the opening ceremony of the Technical Consultation on drug demand reduction which kicked off on Wednesday 3rd August 2016 in Cape Town in the presence of representatives of partner organisations in the area of drug control as well as Experts on drug use epidemiology from AU Member States. Director Maiyegun underscored the need for balanced and integrated responses towards drug control. He said the issue of drug control is beyond just being a security problem, it is also a public health issue. He recalled that the theme of this year: 2016, African year on Human Rights with a particular focus on the Rights of Women ties with the objectives of combatting drug use while respecting the rights for access to drugs and harnessing the demographic dividend which will be the AU theme for the year 2017.
The Director emphasised on the importance of involving the youth in all efforts done at national, regional and continental levels given that, according to statistics, they are the largest population to be affected by the different types of drug abuse. “The focus of the consultation is to review where we are at with improving access to comprehensive, evidence-informed, ethical and human rights based drug use prevention, dependence, treatment and aftercare services; as well as to plan for the development of systematic, structured and sustainable drug use epidemiology systems underlined Amb. Maiyegun.”,
According to the AU Director for Social Affairs, “the consultation comes halfway into implementation of the decisions of the First Specialized Technical Committee on Health, Population and Drug Control (STC-HPDC-1) that took place in April 2015. At the Session, Member States recommit to scaling up advocacy for balanced and integrated responses towards drug control that involves appropriate linkages between drugs, health and crime while confronting political and governance weaknesses, as well as promoting availability of controlled substances for medical and scientific use, including in emergency and conflict situations, while preventing their diversion”. He thanked the US Government for the support provided by the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) to help the AU Commission in the implementing the project “Strengthening Research and Data Collection Capacity for Drug Use Prevention and Treatment in Africa”. He also thanked other partners such as the World Health Organisation and the UNODC for their continuous support to the AUC efforts to control drug use and helping the African countries to develop networks and promote a stronger work force in the fight against drug abuse. (See complete speech of Director Maiyegun on the AU website: www.au.int ).
The representative of the Government of South Africa, Dr Pelmos M. Mashabela, welcomed the participants to the beautiful city of Cape Town and hoped that the meeting will help advance the struggle for drug control in the continent.
Dr. Nicolas C. Clark, Medical Officer with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Geneva, lauded the initiative of the AUC to organize this important meeting. He reiterated the commitment of his Organisation to support the AUC. Dr Clark said high rates of Cannabis use and associated severe mental illness were also posing serious challenges to mental health institutions which had not been prepared for treatment of substance use disorders in many African countries.
Ms Anja Busse, the Representative of the United Nations Office on Drug Control (UNODC), recalled the long standing relationship with the AUC and promised to engage her organization more to the efforts of promoting drug data collection systems that will help to enhance treatment and drug control among the future generations.
Bill McGlynn, Senior Advisor, US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), reiterated the commitment to assist the AUC and African countries in their efforts to strengthen research and data collection capacity for drug use. This, he said will contribute to evidence- based treatment services, which to a large extent is also predicated on sufficient and reliable information on drug use patterns and trends.
Organised by the African Union (AU) Drug Control Programme Management Unit in the Department of Social Affairs of the AU Commission (AUC), the objective of the consultation meeting is to plan for the establishment of national epidemiology networks in Africa as well as gather baseline information by assessing existing data systems, data requirements, data sources, current practices and gaps with a view to design standard data collection tools for drug use in the continent.
For two days, participants will exchange views in training needs, best practices, and review implementation progress, including emerging challenges towards improving access to comprehensive, evidence-informed, ethical and human rights based drug use prevention, dependence, treatment and aftercare services in Member States.
The consultation is expected to prepare groundwork for final reporting on the implementation of the AU Plan of Action on Drug Control (2013-2017) at the Second African Union Specialized Technical Committee Meeting on Health, Population and Drug Control (STC-HPDC) scheduled for March 2017.
The meeting ends on Friday 5 August 2016 with recommendations aimed at providing a solid framework to address both drug supply and drug demand reduction in corresponding measures in Africa.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union Commission (AUC).